Friday, December 16, 2011

Seeing things differently

So often when you see a nativity scene you find Mary with her hands folded in prayer, like this:
I figure the artists and model-makers present Mary that way because... well.. they have to do something with her hands.  Joseph often has a shepherd's crook, a shepherd is holding a sheep, and the wise men (which shouldn't actually be in a manger scene anyway) are holding gifts.  Mary is empty handed, and folding them in prayer looks less awkward than wringing them in worry.

Of course, I know our little drawings and figurines aren't actual depictions of what that night in Bethlehem really looked like.

But still, it has bothered me.  Why would Mary be praying to her newborn son, even if he was the Son of God?

Then one day I saw those praying hands in a whole new way.  What if Mary wasn't praying to Jesus, but over him?  For him?

Motherhood is challenging enough in any circumstances, but can you imagine the responsibility of knowing you are raising up God's Son?  The Savior of all mankind?  What did Mary imagine in Jesus' future as she watched him sleeping in the manger?  Surely she couldn't have imagined the way he would be rejected and killed.  

Even so, I look at my own children sleeping in their beds and think of the weighty responsibilities and pressures of motherhood.  I wonder about what their futures hold, and I pray.  For them.  For me.

So now when I see Mary kneeling at the manger, hands folded in prayer, I am reminded to bend my knees  and my heart and pray for my own little ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nice people

I had a disturbing thought this morning:

Hell is full of "nice" people.

Sure, there are plenty of the "bad guys" there, too.  Murderers and abusers and villains.

But there are also people who smiled and laughed.  Did kind things.  People that loved and gave.  People that went to church and helped others.  Nice people.  "Good" people.

In eternal torture.

Why?  Because the division between heaven and hell isn't about being good in this life.  If it was, heaven would be empty.  Because no matter how good and nice we think we are, we are still selfish at heart.  We still think ugly thoughts and occasionally do or say not nice things.

The division between heaven and hell is determined by our: #1 - admitting that we aren't actually good, and that we do wrong, #2 - realizing that Jesus took the punishment for our wrongs, and #3 - asking him to forgive us and rescue us from a life (both here on earth and in eternity) separated from him.

It's a decision, an action, so simple that people balk at it, thinking they must do more.  But we can never do enough.  All we can do is actively accept the gift that has been extended to each of us, individually.

We weren't created to live on earth and "be good".  We were created to know God, and to worship him.  Our sinful nature separates us from him and that can only be fixed by humbly admitting that we can't work our way to him but can only know him through Jesus.

But the world wants us to believe we are all good people.  Many, many "good people" have bought into that lie.

That is why some of the nicest people we know are headed for hell.

That, my friends, is a heartbreaking thought.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sparkly Candy Canes

Not an original idea, but I didn't mark the blog where I first saw it.  Oops.

Simple enough project.

Paint a wrapped candy cane with glue.

Sprinkle with glitter.  

Let dry. Flip, paint, sprinkle, let dry again.

And probably eat. We'll find out closer to (or even after) Christmas if the glue seeped into the wrappers or not. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Playdough

We've made homemade playdough plenty of times before, but this was my first time trying scented playdough.

I love it!
I used this recipe from No Time for Flashcards (substituting cream of tartar for the alum).  I read a suggestion in the comments to dissolve the salt in the boiling water before mixing with the flour.  That has to be the most genius playdough tip ever!  The dough is so nice and soft and not gritty!

We divided our dough into two batches.  

One we colored red and added red glitter and lots of cinnamon.
The other we left white and added iridescent glitter and mint extract.

The mint turned out with a stronger, more recognizable scent.  I can't imagine how much cinnamon it would take to get a good strong cinnamony smell!

We've been storing our playdough in the fridge.  It softens up nicely for play.  One batch even survived after a night in the freezer.  *Ahem.*  Seems someone wanted to freeze his "Christmas cookies".  

Happy playdoughing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tyler did it.

And then he called her "Brooky".

And he's been calling her that ever since. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Digital Scrapbooking Giveaway

I learned a long time ago that Me + Scrapbooking was never going to work out, no matter how much I wanted it to.  

Thankfully I've got some other interests to fall back on. ;)

But if scrapbooking is your thing, you might be interested in the giveaway from my blog friend Karen over at Candid Diversions.  Hurry, because the giveaway closes this Sunday night! (Dec 4th)

My Memories Software Giveaway

If you decide to enter, give Karen a hello and tell her I sent you, will ya?  :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Brooklyn: Two Months

Brooklyn had a 2-month photoshoot this week.

I am reaping the benefits of being in the good graces of a hobby photographer turning pro. 

And as much as I love these pictures, I think I'm going to do whatever it takes to stay that way. :)  I mean if a person wants to build a portfolio, who am I to stand in the way, right? I do what I can to help.  Me and Miss B. 

You can see a bigger sampling of Brooklyn's pics by visiting the Simple Journeys Photography blog or on facebook.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let the countdown begin!

I am determined to try as much as possible to make Christmas more about a season than One Big Day for my boys.  My theory is if you spend all your time anticipating the Big Event and not enjoying all the little things that make Christmas special then you are setting yourself up for a let-down.  

And yet, in a tremendous case of self-contradiction, we have five, count 'em five countdown gizmos going on.

In the boys' room we have an oldie from my childhood, the DecemBear:
My mom hemmed this up and sewed a little stuffed bear when we were kids.  The bear moves around to a different location each day until he "finds" Christmas.  
For some reason I do not know, I consider this piece of tradition as belonging to my sister, just on loan to us until her own kiddos are old enough to enjoy it.  We've never even discussed it, yet I make sure to take extra care of it for her family. (Hey Kristin.... do you want the DecemBear???)

Also in the boys' room in the paper chain they made earlier this week.  Since we have so many activities counting down to December 25th (and since we'll be gone for several days leading up to that day) I am considering calculating the chain the countdown to our trip to see family the week before Christmas.  That would also allow more than one boy to tear off a link each day.

Just for fun the boys colored up this freebie printable this week also.  We will glue on an ornament a day until we add the star on December 25th:
You can download one too at

We have two new countdowns this year (and one from last year that I left packed away this time... that would have made six!).  One is this add-a-cookie-magnet set, a recent gift from Grandma:
And finally, the subtract-some-candy garland.  

Looks like it's going to be a busy (and sweet!) month ahead!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best Homeschool Money I Ever Spent

I am a cheap frugal homeschooler.

While my children's education is worth any price, I find there is a lot a person can do inexpensively, or even for free.

Therefore, it is highly unusual for me to plunk down more than a few bucks for a learning aid.  But based on our experiences so far memorizing basic addition/subtraction facts, I was very much dreading beginning the multiplication tables.

The boy can memorize a poem or an entire Bible passage in an afternoon.  He has a clear grasp of the concept of multiplication, of fractions and even basic decimals.  But to commit to memory 7+8=15 or 4x3=12?  Forget it.

I have always been interested in CBD's Multiplication Memorization kit, especially after reading the Andreola's review.  After our experience with addition, and considering Dale's imaginative, visual learning style, I had a hunch it was just what we needed.

We opened up our box of jumbo-sized flash cards the day they arrived, reading the number story and memorization aid on card after card.  The next day we reviewed the 10 or 12 we had looked at, and wonder of wonders... it worked!

We add a few more every day, and I continue to be amazed at how quickly Dale is able to recall 9x5, 8x4, or 7x8.  For my learning style it is the long complicated way.  For him it is perfect and easy.  So, so thankful we have this kit!

267555: Multiplication Memorizer Kit Multiplication Memorizer Kit
Yes, this is an affiliate post.  If you are kind enough to make a CBD purchase after clicking the above link I will receive a small compensation.  That said, I would love, love, love this product if I never made a single cent! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Patrick Swayze would not approve

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Except... maybe we do...
But when a space is so cozy and out-of-the-way you just can't help yourself.  A perfect little baby-space!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Gift

By now, most of us are probably aware of the many incidents that were the result of the craziness that is Black Friday.  Pepper spray, gunshots, fights, and more.  What a way to kick off the start of the Christmas season.  The "happiest season of all."

We don't like to think of commercialism and violence as part of this season.  What do we think of when we think Christmas?  Christmas trees?  Cookies?  What is it all about?  Gifts?  Stockings?  Lights?  Shopping?

Or maybe it is about this:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-8
That is Christmas, right?  A virgin, a baby, a manger.  There were no sparkly trees.  No cookies.  And no gifts.  

Ah, but there was one gift.  The baby Himself was the gift.  

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Jesus.  God's gift to us.  
God gave his son, and his son was beaten, hated, rejected, spit on, mocked, and killed.

Dale heard that list yesterday during the sermon and, using his favorite phrase in his best attempt to sound grown-up, whispered to me, "Why in the world did God do that?"

My whispered answer to him is the same to you: 

He did it because he loves you.

As our pastor said yesterday, if you asked Jesus the true meaning of Christmas, he would probably say it is less about the baby in the manger, and more about the love of the Father, and his Gift to the world.  His gift to me.  His gift to you.

Have you humbled yourself to repent and trust in Him?
"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."
2 Corinthians 9:15
*This post is composed of my own words, but is a paraphrase and abbreviated version of our sermon yesterday.  The thoughts and ideas are those of our pastor, posted here with permission.*

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

How we've been celebrating:
We started out the month with a giant tree, a stack of colored leaves, and  roll of double-sided tape.
We try to each write at least one blessing a day to put on the tree.

We even have guests put up a thankful leaf!  The tape we are using is re-stickable, so after Thanksgiving I plan on putting our leaves into a notebook for a keepsake.  Stores flat! :)
Some of our Thanksgiving school work on my makeshift bulletin board (until I find what  I am looking for to make one).
My favorites are the handprint Mayflowers from Almost Unschoolers. The video link (about the Mayflower II) on that site is also very good!
A turkey hairclip for Miss B!  From Vanessa.
Also from Vanessa @ Silly Eagle Books.
(Hmm...went to get that link and noticed our turkeys are missing their wings. Whoops!)
These three turkeys are among the things at the top of my thankful list, along with their sister,
their Daddy, and a host of other blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving 
from all of us in the Buffalo Herd!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Alan!

As often happens around here, the celebration was spread over several days.

A candle in his breakfast, a long-standing family tradition...
A treat for lunch.  With another candle, just for good measure...
A box in the mail from Grandma the next day...
Followed by a family party a few days later...
Happy birthday my sweet, precious, five year old!

Monday, November 21, 2011


.... moments before everyone's favorite part of every school day...
...when DADDY arrives at home!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Kids Are Weird

Our babies have all needed a little help getting to sleep and being soothed in their newborn days.

But that's not what makes them weird.

While most normal parents (I assume) are gently rocking their babies to heartbeat therapy or lullabies, we are bouncing and jiggling ours on our knees while they peacefully nod off to things like this:

or most recently, this:

Three of our four kids have drifted off to that Michigan State drumline.  It works almost every. time. 

Not white noise. Not classical piano, or singing, or shushing.

Oh those things might work sometimes.  But when we mean serious business, we break out the loud, (sometimes annoying), rhythmic gems o' youtube.  

And in moments - I kid you not - our babies are out like a light.

I told you they were weird.

How do you put your babies to sleep?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dasher of my children's dreams

Dale: I am going to try to set a record.  I'm going to see if I can wear these socks until Monday.

Mama: That will make your feet stinky and itchy, you know.

Dale: Oh. (Peels socks.)

Looks like we won't be calling Guinness any time soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Of Sickness & Spies

We woke up Sunday morning with one coughing, feverish little boy.

By Wednesday 5 of the 6 of us had fallen victim to the same bug.  It's the first time I can remember that a sickness has struck and run through the family like wildfire.  I don't think we've ever all gotten the same thing.  (I say "all" far Brooklyn has stayed well and we are hoping and praying that remains true!  Yay for breastfeeding!)

And let me tell you, this is more than your run of the mill sniffly cold.  This thing is vicious.  Stubborn fever that lasts for daaaays.  Just for you, I won't elaborate on the snot and coughing.  I'm sure you can imagine.

Greg has managed to work through it all, and we at home have sort of kept up a routine of school and housekeeping.  All in all, things could have been worse.  I'm thankful that there has been no puking (well, except that once when one person's cough got the best of them, but that hardly counts).  I'm also thankful we haven't needed a trip to the doctor, even though we really sweated it (no pun intended) with such a long fever in our transplant boy.  And have I mentioned I'm thankful for the lack of puking.  I'd take a weeklong cold over a 24 hour stomach bug any day.

One thing that has remained constant this week has been our Bible time.  We are just finishing up the Israelites' wandering through the wilderness.  When we discussed the 12 spies that went into Canaan (Numbers 13) Dale read the Bible passage and then summarized parts of it to us, including what the spies' goals were.

Dale:    "to see what the land is like, whether the people are strong or weak, few or many, whether the land is good or bad, too see whether the land is rich or poor, to bring back some of the fruit of the land....."

Alan:   "And to take pictures of everything!"

A future blogger, perhaps?
(And maybe things would have worked out better for those 10 spies if they had taken pictures!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Six Weeks...

...(and three days) old.
 Still loves having her hair washed.
 Doesn't love baths so much.
 Absolutely can't stand to have a wet or dirty diaper.
 Loves the sounds of her brothers' voices.
And still sleeps through all their buffalo playing noises. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Brotherly Love

One question we get asked a lot when people are admiring or inquiring about Brooklyn is "What do those boys think about her?"

My answer is usually always the same...

"They are crazy about her."

Sure it sounds good to say, but the truth is... it's the truth!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hey, Earl

November 3.

Sandwich Day.  National Sandwich Day? Sandwich Appreciation Day? 

I can't remember it's official name, but November 3 is the day someone decided we should recognize the significance sustenance between two slices of bread has in our lives.

This was our first year to recognize sandwich day, mostly due to the fact that my November activity book had a worksheet which I copied for Dale.

So while Dale was doing word puzzles to list out the names of a dozen or so sandwich varieties, Alan and I played an impromptu game of sandwich word building.

Yes, I made that up.  
What? Doesn't your bologna come in funny egg-shaped purple circles? No?

Yes, it was 2 minutes before the activity commenced.

I knew it was going to go well when Alan asked "Why are you drawing bread?"

If he recognized my poor attempts at drawing a slice of bread, things could only get better from there.

Which they did, when we had yummy ham and cheese mini sandwiches for lunch.

Meat & cheese on one half, butter and garlic powder on the other.  Toast.  Close.  Eat.

We even capped off Sandwich day with BLT's for supper.  But without the "T" because of my own miscommunication with our grocery buyer.  Even though we were missing the T they were the best BLT's ever, because of the addition of a fried egg.  I don't even like fried eggs and I loved this sandwich.  We will definitely be having them again, making sure we have tomatoes next time.

And since this is what I'm sure you all actually want pictures of more than my poor artwork and long-gone lunch:

Happy Sandwich Day, everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day in the life, newborn no-blogging edition

I can't seem to get around to blogging these days (and I miss you guys!), so I thought I'd chronicle my day to see where my time goes. 
Then I thought, 'hey, I can do that as a blog post!'
Then I thought, 'hey, why not do live updates?'
So here it is, a semi-live web log (get it? web log, web-log, weblog, blog) of our day.
Scroll to the bottom throughout the day for updates.

6:30 - Brooklyn wakes up to nurse. Last up around 2:30. Went to bed around 11:30.  Greg is getting ready for work.

6:45 - Breakfast smoothies for Greg and me.

7:00 - Greg leaves.  I finish my smoothie, make the rounds on the computer.

7:15 - Shower, bedmaking, etc. Met Dale & Ty getting up as I was going in to shower.  Alan up when I got out.

7:45 - Gave boys leftover smoothie. Cereal for Dale, cinnamon toast for everybody else.  Ate, read a few Psalms aloud.

8:15 - Started a load of laundry, began the boys' "morning jobs".

8:30ish - Got completely distracted and began cleaning the boys' room.  Not a completely bad thing, as it needs it desperately. Constantly.

8:55 - Returned to kitchen to finish my morning cleanup.  Laundry into dryer.  Boys playing in their room.  Mostly.  Are we the only ones that have problems with tattling???

9:15 - Put away yesterday's jumbo load of laundry with the boys.  Reorganized Dale's pj drawer.  Pulled all the shorts from Tyler's drawer.

9:40 - Nursed Brooklyn.  Read Bible story (Crossing the Red Sea), and boys colored pictures from the story.  Dressed Brooklyn.

10:25 - Boys took a break for juice.  Complete limbo time.  I played baby. Nursed her, changed her, burped her, watch her hiccup.  Dale worked on a blog post of his own, while Alan and Tyler waited patiently for the trash truck to arrive.

11:10 - Finally resigned myself to the fact that peanut butter was the best option for lunch.  Served up PBHBs (peanut butter, honey and banana) to the boys.  Leftovers for me.

11:30 - Lunch cleanup.  Chicken into the crockpot.

11:40 - Realized that live-blogging one's day really puts the pressure on productivity.  Without live-blogging I would probably be on foodgawker, or One Pretty Thing, or going through my blog reader.  It is possible I might pick up my Bible and read a chapter or two.  As it is, I sat down at 11:40 to add to the blog, and started thinking... 'what next?'  Hmm... maybe I should do this live-blogging thing all week.  Think what we'd get done!

11:45  Read a chapter of Deuteronomy.  Sat and stared.  Wondered what what to do next.  Decided to go ahead with some of our fall activities.  Our themes this week are squirrels and leaves.  Spent some prep time.

12:15 - Preschool time!  Rhymes, stories, coloring, all about squirrels  (And some multiplication practice thrown in for Dale.)

1:00 - Sat down at the sewing machine to take up some of Alan's recent hand-me-down pants. 4T = too small. 5 = too big.

1:10 - Boys head out into the beautiful sunshiny fall day, bare feet, pants legs rolled up.

1:30 - Took Brooklyn out to join the boys while she nursed.

1:45 - Gramps showed up with a load of goodies to sort through.

2:00 - Sent the boys back outside.  Gave up on productivity, and even naptime.  Crashed on the couch with the computer in front of me and sounds of the boys playing outside behind me. 

3:00 - Served an afternoon snack -outside!- to the boys.  Closed the computer and did some miscellaneous straightening up. 

3:45 - The boys' relatively new neighborhood friend showed up to play. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Newborn Days

It's easy to forget how demanding newborn days are until you find yourself back living them again.
Oct. 9, Brooklyn's first trip to church
Even when things are going well (which they mostly are around here), your daily routines are turned upside down, and every spare moment is filled with taken care of someone or something.

These days it's about all I can do to keep everybody fed and clean, all the clothes clean, the beds made, the house picked up, and get a little school done.  Plus work in an afternoon nap.  But that never all happens in the same day.  I have to pick and choose.  
Dale, hard at work. And yes, that is clean baby laundry on my coffee table.
No matter what is getting done or not done, life is good.  I am enjoying this little newborn more than any before her.  Experience tells me how fast the first year flies by.  And the second, third, and fourth, too, for that matter!
Tyler, just because he's so darn cute.